Annecy has long been called the “Venice of the Alps”. This is due to its incredibly romantic character, the canals that criss-cross the town, its ornate medieval town centre and also its proximity to Italy. Annecy is only 600 kilometres from Venice. The Venetian Carnival is an inevitable event of the winter season in Annecy and is influenced by the Italian city. The event is free of charge, allowing tourists and locals alike to enjoy a weekend of entertainment.
The event not to be missed at the beginning of the year
Hundreds of people dress in their best: embroidery, charms, beads, silk, colours, scarves, masks, hats, lace and so on. They will parade during these two days in Annecy, in the heart of winter. It is without doubt the most exciting event of the beginning of the year. There are about 500 of them, driven by their passion for disguise, anonymity and madness. Mystery and magic enchant the city and remind us that the capital of Haute-Savoie is really close to Italy, but also that it still has many Italian descendants.
Theassociation Aria 74 (Association Rencontres Italie Annecy) is behind this wonderful festival. The event takes place the second weekend after Shrove Tuesday. There is no parade, as the organisers wish to leave room for the freedom to wander around the town, between the Gardens of Europe, Le Pâquier, or even in the Old Town, on the banks of the lake. A perfect setting to take sensational photos. What is even more interesting is the fact that the masks and costumes are made by the people who wear them, giving the carnival a human and artisanal dimension. The silence of the masks, their looks that speak volumes, as well as the high level of refinement of the costumes always give an impression of great mystery and remind us of an ancient time when the fabrics of the dresses and the taffeta brushed the stones of the Old Town of Annecy. The association invites spectators and walkers to follow the masks.
The origins of the event
Annecy was originally twinned with Vicenza (a town about 100 kilometres from Venice) in 1995 and Aria 74 was born at that time. The association organises conferences, conversation sessions in Italian, and the carnival. The Annecy masks are such passionate and committed people that they also participate in other carnivals, promoting the Annecy carnival. The number of people helping with the organisation has also increased considerably, from 5 at the beginning to 70 today.
The masks are, for some, the property of the association. Others come from Remiremont, the town in the Vosges that was the first to establish a Venetian Carnival in France. The masks are accomplices and walk around, changing and making their finery together and it is a wonderful sight to see them having dinner together just before they come out.
The rules of the Venetian Carnival
The costumes are inspired by the Venetian tradition, in part, but as carnival is all about the imagination of the creators. Traditionally, the man wears the “bauta” (normally made up of three pieces: a black cloak, a black tricorn and a white mask, of a special appearance, which covers the entire face and points widely forward, modifying the voice), which appeared in Venice in the 18th century, and the woman the wolf (a half mask made of black velvet or satin, worn since the 18th century).
Another famous costume is the “gnaga”, made up of women’s clothes and a cat mask. The only rule is that no part of the skin should be visible. The owner must remain silent, conditions that the association disseminates through the charter of good conduct for masks. The enchantment of the costumes invading the town of Annecy is perfectly in keeping with the medieval decor of the town, which gives it an authentic atmosphere and remains the reason for its success.
The aim of any carnival is to abolish the usual social constraints, to be able to disguise one’s appearance and walk around the town in complete peace. The place of fantasy, of imagination, is essential in this festival, whether it is the traditional Venetian one or the one in Dunkirk, Rio or Nice. It should be noted that the Venetian Carnival of Annecy is the oldest, the most beautiful and the most important in France, which shows how intense the attraction for the marvellous of fantasy is. This civic ritual has gradually become a seductive, almost esoteric and elusive entertainment, embellishing Annecy even more each year.
Video of the 2013 Venetian Carnival
The 2023 edition
The2023 edition of the Venetian Carnival took place from Friday 03 to Sunday 05 March. It was the 26th edition of this event. Nearly 400 participants took part in the game and put on their best costumes.
The 2022 edition
After a two-year absence due to the health crisis, the great parade of masks on the shores of Lake Annecy, in the Jardins de l’Europe and in the pedestrian streets of the city took place from 11 to 13 March 2022.
The 2021 edition
The 2021 edition of the Annecy Venetian Carnival, scheduled for the end of February, was initially postponed from 16/04/2021 to 18/04/2021. But due to the health crisis, the 2021 edition has been definitively cancelled.
The 2020 edition
The2020 edition of the Annecy Venetian Carnival, which was to be held from 6 to 8 March, has been cancelled by the authorities, in order to avoid the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.More information on this cancellation